Who am I?
I am but a drop of water within a larger well.
I am the deepest tide under the surface waves.
I am the stillness
Foundation of all being
I am being
I am water
I am fluid
I am fluid.
Who are you?
My life has gratefully guided me from the dryness of my intellectual mind, where I used to live, to the wet and juicy creativity of embodied being.
Perhaps you are old enough to remember, as I do, sitting tightly in a little school desk designed to restrain the curious, active bodies of little girls and boys. I was six years old, trying my best to fit into these little classroom boxes. We were told to sit still – for hours – hands clasped in front of us on the desk. Who knows what trouble those hands might get us into if allowed to roam freely…
It has taken many years and much hard work to return to the freedoms lost in those early years. Dancing, stretching, an hour of yoga each morning, cracks and creaks persuaded to change their ways.
I began to find my body in a teach-yourself yoga book I discovered in a bookstore as a teenager. No one was doing yoga then. At least no one I knew of. I loved the stretches. They felt so familiar.
I remember my first dance classes. I had patiently waited for them through my entire childhood. Finally, at eighteen, in my first innocent year of university in Toronto, I eagerly attended a ballet class. We stood in a row along the bar in first position. The perspiration poured down my skin. The pain was unbearable. After three classes, I quit. Would I ever be able to dance?
I was young, but my body was a tightly bound mass of tissue, a carefully protected mass of history. I was born in Sarnia, a town now known as one of the most toxic in Canada. Along with the chemical toxicity I gestated in, my body grew in relation to various other traumas in my family environment. I learned to avoid this painful thing and all its feelings as much as possible. I discovered the intellect was a much safer abode, rewarded with good grades and abundant approval.
Even so, I always loved to dance. That same first year of university when I discovered ballet was unattainable for me, I also discovered the international folk dance club. I quickly became a folk dance addict, dancing five nights a week, and within a short time found myself performing with two troupes and teaching weekly classes. Finally, I was able to dance!
Then, the concussion happened.
It was 1979. The scene was a workshop in Scandinavian turning dances somewhere north of Toronto. The room was crowded and someone accidentally tripped my partner and me as we were dancing. With all of the momentum of the spin we had been in, we landed on the floor, the back of my head smashing into the hard concrete with a thud. That moment changed my life.
The stillness was profound. I could hear the gasps and the doctor present asking me my name. I could see the worried faces all around me. I knew my name, or at least I thought I did, but my brain could not communicate to my mouth. I was paralyzed. I could not respond. After some undefined period of time during which I exerted more effort than at any other moment of my life, I was finally able to say my name. The entire room sighed a sigh of relief. I began to laugh and soon the whole crowd was roaring with laughter. The sound gave me a headache.
Moments later, I was led to a mat at the side of the room to lie down and recover while the dance went on. As I lay there, I turned my head and noticed with awe and delight that I had a companion. On the mat next to mine lay a tiny newborn baby, sleeping while her parents danced.
Years later, I recognized the symbolic meaningfulness of that baby’s presence beside me. It was as if I had been reborn that day. Like the little one next to me, I had been given a new body, and found myself slow to process information in my newly forming brain.
My old identity as an intellectual whiz was left behind on the dance floor. It took some years for me to understand that what I now had available to me was my body.
Discovering the Body
The body I used to carry my intellect from place to place prior to the concussion was in many ways unfamiliar to me. I used to tell people that I processed everything through my body. What that meant was that, if something was upsetting for me, I would get sick. That was the only way my body had to process, or to get my attention. That was also a sure way to get attention in my family.
After the concussion, I found myself unable to function in ways that had been important to my identity before. Instead of jousting with my friends with verbal puns, and winning word games, I began to enter more intuitive realms. My intuition eventually led me to hands-on healing work, which inspired me to study massage and bodywork.
Studying and receiving deep tissue massage immediately evoked experiences I could only interpret of memories. I experienced childhood traumas as if they were happening on the massage table. It took years of therapy and training to resolve and integrate these early experiences to the point where they were no longer subversively running my life. My body, once held captive by these shadowy forces of the past, began to change.
As part of my training and healing, I returned to school to study Dance/Movement Therapy. One of the prerequisites was modern dance and ballet. Twenty years after my first painful encounter with ballet, I nervously returned to ballet class. I was shocked and delighted to find my body now worked and moved quite differently. Where just standing in first position had been torture at eighteen, I was able to actually enjoy much more challenging moves at thirty-eight.
This was not supposed to happen! How could I be so much more flexible at thirty-eight than I had been as a teenager? The only answer that made any sense was that all the emotional and bodywork I had done over the years had enabled my body to release its hold on the past. The places of holding and stiffness were no longer required to protect the emotional pain that had been too much to process as a child. Instead, the tissues could flow and flex with increased ease and pleasure.
In recent years, I have been blessed by the guidance and support of a special mentor, Emilie Conrad. Emilie, the founder of Continuum Movement, moves at seventy–six like a twenty year old. She has devoted her life to the powerful medicine of Continuum. In this inquiry into our fluid nature, we use breath, sound, movement, and sensory awareness to slow down, and enter into a more primordial state of being. Our tissue patterns dissolve as we undulate and flow in spontaneous, fluid expressions of the mystery of life. We learn to allow our bodies to move as they wish, honoring and learning from a profound bio-intelligence that is so much wiser than our more linear intellects.
Emilie taught me about pleasure. In her classes, in stark contrast to my family environment, we were encouraged to sense and support the pleasure our bodies are capable of. At one intensive Continuum practitioner training consisting of seventeen consecutive days of this powerful movement work, I began to feel extremely pleasurable spasms running through my heart. My heart seemed to open and open and open in Continuum. I began to sense my heart as a long, broad beam running all the way down to my womb. I had to learn to tolerate the intensity of the pleasure, the love, the expansiveness I experienced.
Life has finally offered a complete counterpoint to that little girl glued to her little chair in the classroom.
While the pain of my early years has eased in the ocean of my fluid body, the scars are not gone. I remember who and how I was in that life, in that time when the terror froze my tissues, seemingly squeezing all the fluid out. Within the resonant waters of my being, I hold that frightened little one in love, bathing her in liquid light. My tissues still remember, but they have also learned another way of being. The stiffness, pain and tensions of the past can still arise, but I am not at their mercy now. I have sounds and breath and micro-movements to revive the undulations of life within. As fluid returns, potential grows. All things become possible. I become all things. I smile. Pleasure drips with the fluid. I have come home.
I am water.
I am fluid.
I am the ocean
I am the sea.
I am the wave across the surface.
I am the tide
The stillness at the ocean floor
I am all this
Like the single cell I came from
Like the one ocean we all came from
Life on land
Let us swim in the ocean of life
Let us remember our birthright
Let us be.